Sun, Feb 19, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Bush says UN and NATO troops needed in Darfur

AFP , TAMPA, FLORIDA

US President George W. Bush said on Friday that ending violence in Darfur will probably require double the number of peacekeepers there now, led by the UN with strong NATO support.

"We need more troops," Bush stressed saying that the 7,000-strong African Union [AU] deployment there "was noble, but it didn't achieve the objective."

"I'm in the process now of working with a variety of folks to encourage there to be more troops, probably under the United Nations," he said days after meeting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"But it's going to require a NATO stewardship, planning, facilitating, organizing, probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now, in order to start bringing some sense of security," Bush said.

The US president's comments, his most detailed to date about how to respond to the worsening situation in Darfur, came hours after he spoke by telephone with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

The president telephoned de Hoop Scheffer "to share his concerns about the deteriorating situation in Darfur," said White House spokesman Trent Duffy, adding that the two discussed "what additional actions NATO might take in the future."

The AU force, which was deployed in 2004, has been suffering from poor funding and inadequate resources to contain the escalating bloodshed in Sudan's troubled western region.

The UN Security Council earlier this month approved contingency planning for UN peacekeepers to take over from the AU force in Darfur.

Despite strong pressure from Western governments, Khartoum has so far remained implacably hostile to the deployment of UN troops there.

The war in Darfur broke out in February 2003, when black ethnic groups launched a rebellion against Khartoum that was brutally repressed by the Arab Islamist regime of the Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir.

The combined effect of the war and one of the world's worst humanitarian crises has left up to 300,000 people dead and an estimated 2.4 million displaced.

"There has to be a consequence for people abusing their fellow citizens," Bush said.

"Our country was the first country to call what was taking place a genocide, which matters -- words matter," he said.

Looking to repair a broader north-south peace agreement, Bush said that Sudan's rebel groups "are not united in their objectives. And so politically, or diplomatically, we have to work to make sure there's one voice."

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeated the charge that "genocide" was taking place in Darfur, but moves to bolster security with a UN force were held up pending a request from the AU.

"On Darfur, our policy is unchanged. It is our view that genocide was committed and in fact continues in Darfur," Rice said in testimony before the House International Relations Committee.

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